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Monroe school residents will see tax hike on fall 2020 ballot for construction

Monroe Schools Superintendent Kathy Demers was part of the public presentation Tuesday evening on the growing district’s plan to build a new elementary through a combination of a local school tax hike and state funding. Voters in the Butler County district will see a school tax issue on the fall 2020 ballot, said Demers. (Photo by Michael D. Clark/Journal-News)
Monroe Schools Superintendent Kathy Demers was part of the public presentation Tuesday evening on the growing district’s plan to build a new elementary through a combination of a local school tax hike and state funding. Voters in the Butler County district will see a school tax issue on the fall 2020 ballot, said Demers. (Photo by Michael D. Clark/Journal-News)

Residents in the fast-growing Monroe school system will see a tax hike on the fall 2020 ballot as part of plan to build a new school with the state paying more two thirds of the cost.

That was part of a facility plan presentation Tuesday evening at Monroe High School where school officials outlined a possible scenario that could see a new, 1,000-student elementary school opening in 2023.

Officials drew out a broad plan, which all requires approval by Monroe’s school board sometime in the spring, that could see voters deciding on tax bond issue on the November 2020 ballot.

That proposed school tax increase may range from 5.4 to 7.2 mills and raise anywhere from $33.1 million to $45.1 million, The latter would also fund renovations to the main second-through-12th grade campus school.

The Butler County district has outgrown its Monroe Primary, which opened in 1954, and the school is too old to qualify for any state construction funding to update the building.

But under Ohio’s Expedited Local Partnership Program (ELPP), Monroe could qualify for state funds that would cover 68 percent of the total cost of the new school construction if a proposed bond issue passes.

Jesse Catanzaro, director of operations for the 2,800-student district, said “the state will not bring their money to us unless we pass the bond issue.”

Originally, district officials had hoped to use pre-project funding from the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission (OFCC) to build a new elementary on the site of the old Lemon-Monroe High School, next to the current primary. But in 2018, the OFCC told school officials an unexpected surge in school district requests across the state had knocked Monroe down on the priority list with no funding likely until 2027.

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Catanzaro said the offer of 68 percent funding reimbursement through the ELPP program, which would be returned to taxpayers via a school tax reduction after 2023, “shows the state is recognizing we a need in this area.”

The ELPP funding option has been previously used to build new schools in Ross, Hamilton, Talawanda and Middletown schools.

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District officials said they plan to continue their public presentations, including posting the information on the Monroe school site and using social media platforms, to make the case for the coming proposed school tax issue.

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The Monroe school board will make a final decision on the new school project, its costs and corresponding tax millage and its scope during the spring or summer 2020 and then file the tax issue for the fall ballot.

After the presentation, Monroe school parent Darien Noe said she appreciated district officials laying the ground work for the different possible school construction plans and their costs.

“The more we can do to create a better environment for our students and teachers, it’s really going to help our future,” said Noe. “I certainly hope the (tax) levy does pass when it is put out. And I think it is fantastic that they are reaching out to parents.”

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